Buena Vista Cemetery
About the Buena Vista Cemetery
This sadly isn't the first time we've written about a cemetery being bulldozed over by the city. Pioneer Park in Mission Hills, for instance, still has the bodies buried on the property, although the tombstones have long been removed. What was once known as Calvary Cemetery is now a park for the community. Hundreds of people unknowingly play and picnic above thousands of dead people every day.
Then there's the Meadowlark Pioneer Cemetery in San Marcos which also still has the bodies buried below. Above is now a busy intersection. The only way you'd realize this is a small cemetery is from a small plaque near the side of the road and a cross in the median.
Let's definitely not forget about El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town, where a whole town was built over the cemetery. Although part of the cemetery has been preserved, a large majority of the bodies now sit below the sidewalk, street and even shops. Keep your eyes peeled for the grave markers on the ground which are scattered outside the cemetery.
Disrespecting the deceased is definitely not uncommon in San Diego when money is involved. And that is exactly what happened to the people buried at what was known as the Buena Vista Cemetery in Oceanside. Today we know that spot as Hunter's Steakhouse. And yes, it is said to be extremely haunted.
History of Buena Vista Cemetery
The Buena Vista Cemetery was located right on the cusp of where Oceanside and Carlsbad meet, overlooking the Buena Vista Lagoon. This was the earliest pioneer cemetery for the area, unless you were Catholic of course, in which you could then be buried at the Mission San Luis Rey. The cemetery had 106 burial plots and was established in 1888.
Between 1888 and 1900, at least 37 people were buried here, although many believe there to have been at least 50 people, if not more.
The discrepancy of how many people were actually buried here depends on who you talked to. A few things are for sure though: more and more bodies continued to show up throughout the years as various developmental projects went underway.
For instance, in 1991, Texaco was doing some soil testing on their property and discovered 5 more bodies. With no way to identify them, their remains were removed and brought to Eternal Hills Memorial Park in Oceanside.
The other thing that is for sure is that every single person that was buried here once lived a life filled with dreams and promise just like the rest of us. Their loved ones had them buried here with the belief that it was their final resting spot.
Removal of the Cemetery
In 1929, Vista Way was being widened which meant that some of the bodies would need to be removed. By this time Oceanview Cemetery had been built and the Buena Vista Cemetery was considered "abandoned".
A lady owned the land at the time and would pay people once a year to help maintain the cemetery. Eventually she sold her property to a developer who petitioned for the land to be rezoned for commercial use.
There was definitely a bit of outrage and a petition signed, but like usual, money wins.
During the grading process to build a gas station and the Hungry Hunter, more bodies were discovered. Each body that was found would be exhumed and moved to a different cemetery.
Fountain of Youth
One of the most remarkable aspects of this story is that the bodies being exhumed were said to be in nearly "perfect condition". The preservation was widely to be believed to be from a mineral component in the soil. So does this mean that this area beholds the fountain of youth?
One of the bodies that was removed even the casket showed almost no signs of decay. The flower the man was holding had even kept much of its color.
Another glass coffin that was unearthed contained a red-haired women who too was in almost perfect condition. She was dressed in 1800's attire and extremely well preserved.
Afraid that she would be thrown in a burlap sack and not properly buried, the workers re-buried her further down near the lagoon.
A bit further down the road is another interesting story, and that of how Carlsbad received its name. I will be writing about this story in length another day. To summarize, there were unique minerals found in the soil here with the same content as a famous spa in Karlsbad, Bohemia.
This entire area must have extremely rich soil with super healing benefits. I'm surprised more spas haven't popped up along this area, utilizing the minerals similar to how you find with hot springs.
The Buena Vista Cemetery immediately made its way to our Lost History section. This section is reserved for spots that if you visited them today, you would have no idea of what history was once held there.
In the 1990's the Oceanside Historical Society had a small granite marker placed on the sidewalk of Vista Way in front of the Hunter Steakhouse Restaurant. The plaque has a list of the known people that were buried at the cemetery with this written at the top:
"Dedicated to the memories of those who were buried at Buena Vista Cemetery. While some bodies were moved before and during construction on this site, many remain here or nearby."
As our city's population grows, and the desire for building over the land increases, we can only wonder what other small and near-forgotten burial sites will one day be put at risk of removal.
I didn't feel this article would be complete until I actually paid a visit inside Hunter Steakhouse. It did not disappoint. Every employee I spoke to had stories: either personal experiences or tales from others who have witnessed things. The place is believed to be extremely haunted. I could feel the energy the second I walked in.
The interior is dark and dated, giving it a nice, semi-creepy ambiance. The hostess told us the most haunted area was downstairs at the bar. When we went down there I was immediately drawn to the back of the room and said I felt the most haunted spot was in that corner.
Sure enough, we learned that a cowboy is said to have been spotted multiple times sitting at the last seat at the end of the bar, right next to where we were sitting. In fact, our waitress had a photo of a girl with a figure behind her and she was sweet enough to send it to me to share. She said there was nobody behind her when the photo was taken. Check it out:
The bathroom has also had multiple sightings of a young girl. Are you brave enough to eat here? The food is delicious by the way. I'm sure if a restaurant has survived since the 70's, it's for good reason!
TIP: After this article, learn about the Dorn Pyramid in San Luis Obispo!